What’s in a name?

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The old-school biblical rain that has fallen pitilessly over the last 48 hours may have stopped, but as I write this, the wind is howling like some kind of horror movie opener. The ground lays sodden, unpaved paths are awash with mud, wheelie bins lie overturned and streams and rivers are swollen.

Here in Brisbane we were subjected to merely the ultra-mellowed-with-age tail end of Cyclone Debbie. Far North Queensland, the spinning behemoth’s true wrecking ground, has now been declared a catastrophe by the Australian Insurance Council with damages estimated in the billions.

Oh Debbie! You may have looked almost beautiful on the satellite image – a perfect swirl of white no more threatening than milk stirred into coffee – but boy did you get angry!  And nasty! You meant to hammer us until we smudged like a Monet masterpiece. But how did you get your name? Now that your fury has weakened and your chaos has diminished, I may reveal all.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) actually has a list of names. The list was complied in 2008 and its exactly 104 names long.  The monikers alternate between male and female. All the names on the list had to be approved by the World Meteorological Organisation Regional Tropical Cyclone Committee for the SE Pacific.

If you want to play along at home, the next few cyclones will be called Ernie, Frances, Greg and then Hilda.

Anyone of a certain age will remember the days back when cyclones carried exclusively female names. That changed in 1975, which was declared International Women’s Year. The Science Minister of the time decided to add male names to the list because both sexes “should bear the odium of the devastation caused by cyclones”.

So where did Cyclone Yasi, (2011) that also devastated North Queensland, fit into this naming scheme I hear you ask. It formed outside the area the BOM is responsible for, so they didn’t get to name it. The BOM keeps the name given to a cyclone by the relevant weather agency if it heads into Australian territory. That’s why it didn’t get a traditionally male or female sounding name.

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You can name a cyclone … but it’ll take a while

The BOM accepts requests to add names to its list, but only in writing.

The names are added to a supplementary list that is used when a name is retired from the original list.

But because so many people want to name a cyclone, these letters are closed for any further submissions:

  • Male: A, B, F, J, R, S, T, W, X, Y, Z
  • Female: A, B, G, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, W, X, Y, Z

If you pass all those hurdles, here’s a note from the bureau’s website on how long it’ll take:

“Note that it can take many decades for a suitable slot to become available, then a further 10 to 20 years for the names to cycle through, so it is likely to be well over 50 years before your requested name is allocated to a cyclone.”

Just think of it:  if you write that letter tomorrow, by 2067 your suggestion may just get the gong.

Publishing pipe-dreams anyone?

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Looking for answers..

Money

It’s been observed many times before that ‘money changes everything’.

This is exactly the effect police are hoping for with the launch of a new weekly true-crime television program called MILLION DOLLAR COLD CASE. A life changing amount of money is being offered for information leading to the arrest of suspects in Australian cold case homicides.

The first episode detailed two cold case murders – one that took place in Melbourne in 1984, the other that occured in Sth Australia in 1989. In the first, a mother and her nine year old daughter – Margaret and Seana Tapp – are found strangled in their beds at home. In the second, Christopher Phillips, a 42 year old civil engineer who was an employee of the Board of Works, is found bludgeoned to death on the floor of his family home. Both cases to this day remain unsolved.

The program combines newsreel footage interspersed with re-enactments and interviews with family members. We also hear from detectives who originally worked on the cases as well as a contemporary police perspective.

There have been programs like this before that have sought assistance from the public to solve crimes but never on a cash incentive scale such as this. The series has not only the endorsement of the Victorian Police Cold Case Team but their participation as well. Their members not only give interviews throughout the series but agreed to be a part of the storytelling.

With a show such as this, Police are sending a clear message that they do not give up; that in the pursuit of justice for victims, it matters little how many years have passed since the crime was committed.

Updates on progress or breakthroughs are promised as the series continues.

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*** Just yesterday, NSW police announced the arrest of a 63-year-old man in connection with the disappearance of 3-year-old Cheryl Grimmer who went missing at Fairy Meadow Beach, south of Sydney, 47 years ago.

 

 

And the winner is..

Special Forces

A while back, I let it be known I had in mind to follow a UK-based reality show (broadcast here on Wednesday nights on Channel 22 over six weeks) called SPECIAL FORCES: ULTIMATE HELL WEEK.

The idea of this program was to take 22 of England’s fittest civilians (marathoners, endurance athletes, former olympians etc) and subject them to 12 days of intense and sleep-deprived Special Forces military training. The aim, apart from generating a sizable audience to witness these bouts of televised torture, was to gradually weed out the also-rans from the fire-breathing serious contenders in order to arrive at a last-person standing ‘winner’ by the final episode.

Series one of this ‘show’ aired two years ago. In that incarnation, 29 Bravo-Two-Zero wannabees were put through similarly harrowing challenges designed to test (and break) their mental and physical reserves. That series was won by a 55kg, 32 year old female (Dr Claire Miller) and reignited the debate about whether women should be allowed to join Special Forces units.

Wednesday night’s episode was the final, and as such only three competitors remained – two females and a male. For a while there it looked like things were headed for a similar result to Series One, before it was announced the fit looking gentleman pictured at the front of the line in the photo above, 28 year old Londoner Onyiuke (that’s his first name) -who listed his real life job as Project Manager – would get the honours.

Over the six episodes of the program, these ‘pain warrior’ recruits were pushed to breaking point by ex-instructors from Special Forces units from six different countries –

Flags       France              Poland            Sth Africa               U.S.               Sth Korea           Australia

There was blood, bruises and plenty of blisters. Waterboarding, hooded interogations and induced hypothermia also got a regular look-in. Carrying heavy concrete blocks across rough terrain while weighed down with 30kg backpacks (sorry.. bergens) was a standard warm up.

‘Highlights’ for me (yes, I feel a little guilty calling them that) included the sight of recruits drinking the blood and eating the liver of a freshly slaughtered springbok (one of those Sth African deer things). And most who watched would remember the moment in Episode 4 when the bearded guy (2nd from the front in the picture above) abruptly exited the show after telling the Sth Korean instructor exactly what he could do with his request to assume the thinking man’s stress position (standing on your head) for the 59th time after yet another perceived minor discipline breach.

So what’s the attraction to these torture-as-entertainment type reality shows?  That’s probably better left as a dedicated post for another day but suffice to say the crazy Japanese game shows of the 80’s that started this modern phenomena have a lot to answer for. It would not surprise me if the yet to be announced Season 3 of SPECIAL FORCES: ULTIMATE HELL WEEK included a brief foray into cannibalism.

If that kind of ‘next-level’ mental toughness exercise actually did ever get the go-ahead, things would still be ok: just as long as nobody tried acting the clown. I’ve heard comedians taste funny. (Ok,  20 pushups for me for that poor imitation of a joke!)cartoon

 

 

Where Bad is Beautiful – and terrible is divine

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The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is an annual whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the most awkward sounding single sentence they can conjure while still conforming to basic rules of grammar and, for want of a better word, storytelling.

Named in honour of the English novelist and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), this yearly foray into the absurd has been running since 1982 and attracts thousands of entries from all over the world. Competition for bad writing has never been so fierce. I’ve entered the last two years but so far haven’t managed to sink to the depths necessary to attract the judges eye. To give you an idea of the (sub)standard of writing required to achieve success in this arena, below is the winning entry as well as the runner-up from the 2016 contest:

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This year I thought I’d sling some word wackle into one of the specialist genre categories. This is my entry for the horror section, though I believe it could just as easily qualify for the Purple Prose or Vile Puns’ sections:

 

Two of the ghastly mutant creature known as Son of Triceratops’ heads had stayed up all night debating whether their dentist really did deserve the plaque awarded to him that day by the Royal Association for the Prevention of Monster Cavities, whilst the third head, having already made up its mind on the subject and recognizing the importance of a good night’s sleep, nodded off early.

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If you think you’ve got what it takes as a bottom-of-the-barrel word fumbler, entries close at the end of April.

A great actor remembered

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Barely noticed this week amidst the buzz and glitter of the film industry’s 89th Academy Awards, and the ‘craziest Oscar moment of all time’, was the passing of one of Hollywood’s finest supporting actors over the last 30 years, Bill Paxton.

Paxton appeared in more than 60 movies, mainly in supporting character roles. Beginning his Hollywood career working in the art department, Bill Paxton made his on-screen debut in 1982 with a small speaking part in the  Bill Murray comedy STRIPES. He went on to be  a regular face in movies throughout the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. His final role was in the upcoming Tom Hanks movie THE CIRCLE, set for release later this year.

Bill Paxton reliably brought an honest, ‘down on the farm’ earthiness to his roles, which I found appealing. It came as no surprise to learn he was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas.

Bill Paxton featured in four of my favourite James Cameron films –

TERMINATOR  (1984)

ALIENS  (1986)

TRUE LIES  (1994)

TITANIC  (1997)

Four years after appearing in TITANIC, he joined James Cameron on an expedition to the actual Titanic. A film about this trip, GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS, was released in 2003.  Paxton also directed two feature films himself – FRAILTY (2001) and THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED (2005).

He passed away on February 25 from complications following surgery.

R.I.P. Bill Paxton.

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*** Bonus Fact***   Bill Paxton was in the crowd when President John F. Kennedy emerged from the Hotel Texas on the morning of his assassination on November 22nd, 1963. Photographs of an eight year old Paxton being lifted above the crowd are on display at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas.